South Pond improvements to begin early August with completion in September

By 
Chris Mcconnell
Thursday, July 15, 2021
Laurel Public Works Director Kurt Markegard (center) met with representatives from KLJ Engineering and Weave Construction at South Pond last week to discuss the Lions Club Park improvements which are tentatively scheduled to be completed by early September. Outlook photo by Chris McConnell

Laurel Public Works Director Kurt Markegard (center) met with representatives from KLJ Engineering and Weave Construction at South Pond last week to discuss the Lions Club Park improvements which are tentatively scheduled to be completed by early September. Outlook photo by Chris McConnell

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Representatives from the City of Laurel, KLJ Engineering and Weave Construction met last week to discuss the improvements to Lions Park at South Pond.

Upon completion of the project, the popular recreation area will have a paved path around the pond, a wheelchair accessible fishing dock and riprap along the east side of the pond to prevent erosion.

City of Laurel workers did some fill in work to get the path ready this past spring which City of Laurel Public Works Director Kurt Markegard said helped the project stay within the budget.

Funding is coming from the Department of Justice Natural Resource Damage Program, Laurel Lions Club and Lions Club International with other groups and individuals donating time, materials and resources.

The Laurel Lions Club raised $35,000 and $62,000 came from the Department of Justice’s Natural Resource Damage Program as part of the settlement from the 2011 Exxon Silvertip pipeline leak. Lions Club International agreed to match the total funds so they donated $97,000 which brought the total to $194,000.

John and Eric Markegard are donating the concrete for the riprap to be placed on the east side of the pond to prevent erosion. The 6–8 foot wide blocks came from the family’s old feedlot.

Weave Construction and will be working the riprap and path and Jerry Lee’s Onsite Welding is assisting with the the dock.

The Laurel Rotary Club is donating two benches for the path which Rotarian Dean Rankin said were built by local metal artist Craig Whitley. “He did such a good job with them. They are heavy duty and well constructed. It turned out to be a nice project.”

There are seven benches in total which will be placed in other places around town including one at Kids Kingdom, two around Thompson Park and one at Triangle Park. The first bench installed is currently on East Main Street. “Woods Powr–Grip powder coated the first one and Schessler Ready Mix supplied the concrete. The City of Laurel, and Matt Wheeler in particular, has been very supportive by providing equipment and labor. It’s been a team effort,” Rankin said.

The Laurel Community Foundation is acting as a facilitator for the fundraising efforts for the South Pond project as well as for the Kid’s Kingdom improvements and the skate park and the pickle ball courts.

John Rutt said because the LCF is a tax deductible 501(c)(3) non profit organization they are the fiscal sponsor for the Lions Club and take responsibility for the money and make sure it gets used properly. “These projects are a benefit to Laurel as a community and we help organizations get the money as quick as possible,” he said.

The Exxon Silvertip pipe broke July 1, 2011 during the extreme flooding and spilled 63,000 gallons (around 1,500 barrels) of crude into the Yellowstone River which could be seen 240 miles down stream within two days.

The $12 million settlement with Exxon Mobile was reached in 2016 through the efforts of the Montana Department of Justice’s Natural Resource Damage Program and the U.S. Departments of Justice and the Interior. Former Governor Bullock had said, “Montanans deserve and expect ExxonMobil Pipeline Company to be held accountable for the damages they caused to Montana’s Yellowstone River, our communities, and our economy. This proposed settlement goes a long way in protecting Montana’s Yellowstone River, one of the last, great, free-flowing rivers in the United States that plays a vital role in our strong $6 billion outdoor economy.“

The settlement funds have now been dispersed throughout different organizations. Some of the money was used by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks to purchase two islands totaling 45 acres from the Montana Department of Transportation on the Yellowstone River east of Reed Point.

In 2018, $514,000 from the settlement was allotted for Laurel to complete several projects besides the South Pond improvement including $350,000 for the campground and associated facilities at Riverside Park as well as $37,000 for two vault toilets.

Construction on the final phase of the South Pond project will begin around August 9 and take about a month to complete.

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